Ranking Every Planeswalker with EDHREC – Part 2: A Tribe of Chads
(Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast | Art by Kieren Yanner)
Hello, the Future!
Welcome back to our new excursion where we rank every planeswalker based on the number of decks they have on EDHREC. This is past me here. In your present day, Wizards has probably started revealing previews for Zendikar Rising, as well as details for a Commander product that will affect the format like no other, but past me, writing these article in advance, hasn't seen any of that yet, so he can't comment on it.
Anyway, last week we looked at the ten "Worst" or least-played 'walkers in the format. We've certainly got some more bad 'walkers on the docket today, so let's see if we can burn through a few extra, shall we?
193: Ajani, Inspiring Leader 290 Decks
Dang! He’s just so inspiring! Watch as he speaks valiantly to your creatures and shows them how to be stronger, and then he dies. Or see him vanquish one foul creature from this world, and then he dies. Or, when all hope seems lost, and your creatures need someone to rally them together and finish the fight, watch as he won’t be able to do that because he died two turns ago. Truly, he's an inspiring figure we should all learn from.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: In case I didn’t make it clear, it’s unlikely that Ajani, Inspiring Leader will survive very long.
192: Vraska, Regal Gorgon: 313 Decks
See, I was expecting these Planeswalker Deck 'walkers to just be complete garbage, but honestly, they're more dull than bad. There're very few Sorin, Vampire Lord-level 'walkers here. Some are decent, but even the ones I wouldn't recommend playing, like Vraska, Regal Gorgon, aren’t that bad. The +2 is evasion, the -3 is removal, and the -10 probably wins the game. None of these abilities are things that Commander doesn't want. It's just that at six mana and being very fragile, I can't envision a deck for it.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It's just super mediocre. Mediocre-ific, if you will.
191: Gideon, the Oathsworn: 322 Decks
I guess I should explain the main reason a lot of these Planeswalker Deck 'walkers see play. One of the weirdest deck trends of the past few years is the planeswalker tribal deck. No, not superfriends. Specifically “Chandra tribal", or in this case, "Gideon tribal". Much like playing a janky tribe like Oozes, these Gideon tribal decks will play any Gideon 'walker, even Gideon, the Oathsworn, as well as any card that has "Gideon" in the title, like Gideon’s Triumph. On some level, I get it. There’s sorta an inherent joke in taking a mostly unsupported strategy and leaning into it hardcore.
However, I don’t think that I entirely understand it. I’m not trying to yuck anyone’s yum. If you enjoy these planeswalker tribal decks, that’s fantastic. I just don't see the appeal. For me, if I'm playing a tribe like Starfish, there's a weird satisfaction in trying to kill opponent with cards like Sigiled Starfish, and using them with "payoffs" like Kindred Discovery. I built a janky deck with weird cards, and am "rewarded" in-game. The Gideon planeswalkers don't feel janky. Even Gideon, the Oathsworn isn't bad enough to be funny. Gideon tribal decks feel like mediocre superfriends to me, so I'd rather just ditch the restriction and play mono-white superfriends to its fullest. Again, if planeswalker tribal sounds interesting to you, I implore you to go build it! I think I just don't get the joke. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Back to our friend here, I don't think he's playable outside Gideon tribal. There’re some superfriends or aggro decks playing him, and if the ultimate wasn’t a -9, I might consider it, but, as is, it’s going to take a million turns to get there.
190: Dovin, Architect of Law: 326 Decks
Azorius is probably one of the best color combinations at protecting 'walkers thanks to the high number of wraths and other ways to lock combat like Sphere of Safety. This means that Azorius 'walkers don't have to do quite as much to be playable. For example, I think Dovin, Architect of Law gets there mainly off of being a personal Howling Mine. There’s some extra stuff where you can tap big scary threats down, and you can just really screw over one person with the ultimate, but that’s all mostly just gravy. Dovin's primarily a way to draw cards that maybe does some extra stuff later. Are there other cards that meet those requirements better? Absolutely, but I think Dovin still does enough to not be unplayable.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: If I saw this Dovin in a Commander game, I wouldn’t be that surprised.
189: Vivien of the Arkbow: 364 Decks
How is this Vivien doing better than Vivien, Nature’s Avenger? The difference between two counters and three counters is pretty big. Not to mention the ultimate on Nature's Avenger is better in the decks that want to put counters on a single creature. I don't think Vivien of the Arkbow is worse than Nature’s Avenger, per se, but the thing that I liked about Avenger has been watered down here.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: If you’re gonna play either, go for maximum cheese!
188: Ral, Caller of Storms: 382 Decks
Why is Ral just creepily looking at us in the art? Usually, the central figure in these cards' artwork looks fierce, or if they are smiling, it’s because they’re doing something whimsical or fun, but here Ral’s just standing there looking smugly at the camera, and I’m not ever sure why. Is he just really pleased that he’s spitting lightning out of his hands? Ravnica has freaking talking Dragons! Are we really supposed to be impressed by his little light show? “Awww! Ral! Did you make a widdle bit of wightning? That’s adowable! I’m so pwoud of you. Now I’m sure Nicol Bolas has a juice box for you if you go and finish up your coloring project!”
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Actually, the art is quite fitting for the quality of the card. It’s another Howling Mine 'walker like Dovin, but with worse abilities in colors that can’t protect it as well, and would probably rather have a spell-based way to draw anyway.
187: Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears: 412 Decks
Editors' note: according to the official style guide from Wizards of the Coast, Ashiok does not have a personal pronoun; the only proper way to refer to Ashiok, the individual, is "Ashiok".
It feels like Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears was tweaked just enough to make me not like Ashiok. If Ashiok entered with six, or even five, loyalty so that Ashiok could use that middle ability straight away, I’d gladly play Ashiok. Six mana for a Reanimate that draws cards when there's nothing to reanimate could be worth it in some slower decks. As it is now, though, I have to keep Ashiok alive a full turn before I can really take advantage of Ashiok. It just completely removes the flexibility and surprise nature of the ability.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Ashiok still isn't awful, but is so close to something that I'd actually want to play.
186: Liliana, the Necromancer: 442 Decks
I would have expected Liliana, the Necromancer to be in the bottom 10 'walkers. Why are earth is she this high? If I were trying to make a bad +1 for a 'walker, I don't think I'd come up with Lili's +1. Two life is a drop in the bucket in Commander, and then she’s wide open to get socked in the face. I think the -1 was supposed to be the protection, but you'd need a million mana to cast Liliana and then cast the creature you get back with her. Even the ultimate isn’t game-winning. It’s good, but it’s very easy to imagine activating it and still losing the game.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: This is up there with Sorin, Vampire Lord as one of the worst planeswalkers in Commander, which makes the $20 price tag extra hilarious!
185: Ajani, Wise Counselor: 445 Decks
Wow! We're on a streak of terrible cards. It's nice when walking through a bunch slightly relevant 'walkers that ultimately aren't quite good enough for the format, to see that 'walkers like Ajani, Wise Counselor, which don’t protect itself at all, don’t have much relevance to the EDH format, and where no ability they have is really worth the effort. It's refreshing, honestly.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Thank you, Ajani! I’m very happy to see you and your really awful abilities in full glory.
184: Jace, Arcane Strategist: 453 Decks
Another Howling Mine 'walker with upside, although Jace, Arcane Strategist is pretty cute if you can draw cards on opponents' turns. It’s kinda good in Toothy, Imaginary Friend. Just Toothy. Adding Pir, Imaginative Rascal probably gives you better ways to add counters, but mono-blue could probably use ways to put counters on thing. Anywhere else for this card? Uh, it's okay in Roalesk, Apex Hybrid. Maybe a really powered down Marchesa, the Black Rose? A weird Gavi, Nest Warden deck? Is that enough? I think that's enough.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s definitely another option for card draw decks that also like +1/+1 counters.
183: Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast: 460 Decks
What’s this? The number gods have given me a brief respite from the Planeswalker Deck variety hour with a real planeswalker?!?
And a good one, too! I expected the Ikoria 'walkers to be posting lower numbers since we’re not that far from Ikoria’s release, but, even for a new card, Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast seems super underplayed. The abilities are not only relevant for Commander, I’m actively happy to activate them. It’s pretty easy to have Lukka draw you a couple cards a turn in creature-based decks with the +1. The ultimate is an ultimate. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it can definitely win you the game.
However, the real star of the show is that -2 ability. In creature-dense decks, you'll usually have a Llanowar Elves or a Tionalli’s Summoner that you don't need anymore, and you’re always guaranteed something better. Even if you’re not living in magical Christmas land and flipping into Woodfall Primus, flipping into a value creature like Tireless Tracker or Rashmi, Eternieis Crafter is absolutely worth it, and it protects Lukka. This might be my favorite planeswalker in a while. It seems like a really fun card to mess around with.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I didn’t even mention doing something like mono-red Polymorph. One of the other writers needs to get on that idea, stat!
182: Nissa, Nature's Artisan: 518 Decks
I think people are mainly just enamored with the -4 on this one. Nissa, Sage Animist has one of the most satisfying plus abilities in the whole game, and Nissa, Nature's Artisan has a minus that's double the fun! In a hypothetical scenario where everyone forgets how planeswalkers work, you can tick Nissa up once, and then tick her down twice over the following two turns. If that happens, I guess you get a decent effect for the six mana, so I could see playing her. However, that's the best-case scenario. The average case is that she's probably just gonna tick up and die, or tick down once, which definitely isn't worth it.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I still like her, but she really has to be protected to make her anything but awful. Perhaps in that budget superfriends list?
181: Mu Yanling: 563 Decks
Mu Yangling is an uber-casual battlecruiser card. The +2 works well with everything from Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign to Atemsis, All Seeing. The -3 is obviously good, and you only need to +1 once before you can do it again, and the -10 will probably win you the game if you manage to get that far.
Is it good in most focused decks? No, but it’s the type of card that reminds me that I don’t really want to play focused decks all the time. Sure, it’s a six-mana clunky planeswalker that gets torn to shreds by any deck with a proactive gameplan, but you know what? Sometimes I wanna play a big do-nothing walker. Someday I’m gonna build a janky Medomai, the Ageless deck, and it's gonna run things like Overwhelming Intellect, and Cast Through Time, and it’s gonna have Mu Yanling in it! It’s not going to be close to strong, but I’m gonna do it, because it looks fun!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: It fires certain jank sectors of my brain.
All aboard the Jank ship!
So we've gotten through most of the mediocre Planeswalker Deck 'walkers here. We're not all done with them, but from here on in, most of them are a lot better. What do you think of this batch? Are you a fan of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast? Are you playing any of the 'walkers I called overplayed? Let me know in the comments. Until next week!